August 1 : No candles and carrots today

For the first time in this country, not all horses will celebrate their birthdays today.

All Standardbreds registered with Harness Racing New Zealand will have to wait until January 1 2022 before they clock up another year and get their celebratory stash of carrots.

It’s a monumental change for our sport,” says HRNZ Chief Executive Gary Woodham, “for forever and a day horses have had their birthdays on August the first in New Zealand.”

In May 2021 a Special General Meeting of all clubs and kindred bodies of HRNZ unanimously approved the change from August 1 to January 1 each year.

“There are many reasons behind the change,” says Woodham, “we are now in alignment with the Australian horse birthdate and other harness jurisdictions around the world.”

“That’s good news for those wanting to race their two and three-year-olds across the Tasman because it’s now an even playing field. It also means the 2YO racing season goes from four and a half months to 11 months.”

So what does the change mean to this year’s racing?

As of July 31 (yesterday) the 2020-21 season is over. That means that Robert Dunn will be the champion trainer, and Blair Orange will win the drivers’ premiership.

“All the categories that are decided at our big awards night will be based from August 1 last year to July 31 this year,” says Woodham.

August 1 to December 31 2021 will then become a “transitional” season.

From January 1 2022 the next “season” will go for the calendar year (January – December).

“I know it takes a bit to get your head around,” says Woodham, “but it is going to be a great thing for our sport and there are a lot of exciting changes and initiatives coming up for the next year and beyond.”

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